Bringing Accurate Information to the Community Doorstep
Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines is still experiencing challenges in surpassing limitations and challenges — both new and exacerbated existing ones. However, it seems that one positive note is that in certain areas in the country, vaccine hesitance or resistance is slowly diminishing. Undoubtedly, this is not solely due to mainstream media and hearsay, but also because of the valuable contributions of community representatives, volunteers, and workers.
In some barangays in Pulilan, Baliuag, and Malolos, Bulacan, Community Health Educators or CHEs work hand-in-hand with the local government, particularly at the barangay level to engage the community and assure that they are being informed of updates for protocols, current response efforts from different sectors fo society, and most importantly the availability of services and vaccinations around their area.
Mary Jean Santos, 46, a resident in Pulilan, Bulacan, shared how she was extremely against getting the vaccine before. She had gotten word of different stories and hearsay that the vaccine would provide more harm than benefit, possibly even causing death. However, upon the encouragement of one of the barangay volunteer CHEs, Mary Jean was invited and attended a seminar that helped educate citizens on accurate information regarding COVID-19 vaccination. After learning that most, if not all of her prior prejudices on getting vaccinated were false, she was vaccinated last December 2021.
“Ngayon alam ko na na kailangan pala ng bakuna kasi kailangan natin ng protekshyon at saka para rin sa mga kasama sa bahay at pati na rin mga mahal natin sa buhay.” [I only found out recently that we really do need vaccines since we not only need protection for ourselves, but also protection for the sake of our households and loved ones.]
Community Health Educators such as Fe Jumagdao, also shared that aside from encouraging citizens to get vaccinated, it is also helpful to encourage the community to share their concerns and questions with their local government since it is also their right. CHE Syrlle Ann Ginooalso recounted her experiences in speaking with her fellow community members, with people fearing possible side effects of the vaccine, even hearing stories that some worried getting vaccinated would only allow them up two more years to live. Furthermore, since she believed the CHEs learned many facts from working with the health professionals and barangay officials, she strongly encouraged the participation of community members to take advantage of Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) efforts like resources and seminars made available through partnerships with both the private and humanitarian sector.
“Malaki ang naging tulong ng saminar dahil nga naunawaan nila, bukod sa kakasabi namin,” says Leny Ventura, another CHE from Brgy, Pinagbarilan, Baliuag, Bulacan. [The seminar was really a big help since it provided people an avenue to better understand the situation aside from jus t us CHEs repetitively telling them.]
Among other volunteers at the barangay level, Evelyn Paltao, a mother Leader in Barangay Tarcan highlighted that it is also important for local leaders and volunteers to be examples of practicing proper health protocols and movement in the community in order to further strengthen and assure their local safety and progress toward recovery and herd immunity.
With continued perseverance paired with government assistance, collaborative partnerships among different sectors of society, and the open-mindedness of the community people, the CHEs in these communities are among many of those who work hard and strive for a more positive and healthy population.
The RCCE and Vaccination Roll-Out Project, which is being implemented in Malolos City, Baliwag and Pulilan in Bulacan Province, Sto. Tomas City in Batangas, and General Santos City in South Cotabato, aims to support 30 barangay local government units (BLGUs) to increase their capacities in implementing COVID-19 policies and help encourage their residents to get vaccinated. More than 2,450 barangay officials, health workers and members of the peacekeeping team have already been trained by medical professionals to further spread information and provide communication about the risks of COVID-19 and vaccination benefits. This initiative is a collaboration between CARE Philippines, the Southern Tagalog People’s Response Center, MINCODE, and Cargill.